How to make money with storage auctions

Whether you’ve watched “Storage Wars” or “Auction Hunters,” you might be tempted to bid on storage unit auctions yourself. It could be a profitable side business, but there is some risk involved.

A storage unit auction occurs when a unit tenant has not paid their storage fees for a certain period of time. The storage facility sells the entire unit as is, and the buyer can only perform a visual scan of the exterior. In some cases, the buyer is able to get a unit full of treasures at knockdown prices. In others, they buy a bric-a-brac unit. That’s the fun (and risk!) of storage auctions.

If you’re ready to dive into the world of storage auctions and learn how it works, here are the steps to get started.

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1. Find an auction

Storage auctions, also known as lien sales, are held at self-service storage facilities. When a unit tenant fails to pay their monthly rent for a certain period, the storage facility can put a lien on the property. If the lessee does not respond or pay within the state-required notice period, the storage facility may legally sell the contents of the unit.

The time renters must pay before their items are auctioned varies depending on state lien laws and storage facility policy. For instance:

  • New Hampshire: In New Hampshire, tenants are in default if they are 30 days or more late. The warehouse must send the tenant a notice of default and intention to sell the contents of the storage unit. The tenant has 14 days after receipt of the notice to pay the rent and late payment penalties due. If the tenant does not pay the required amount, the storage facility can legally hold an auction for the contents of the unit.

  • Florida: In Florida, the delay is shorter. The unit is in default after payments were only five days late. Storage facilities must send the tenant a notice that the unit will be put up for sale if they do not pay within 14 days. After 14 days, the establishment must publish an advertisement in a newspaper once a week for two consecutive weeks. 15 days after publication of the notice in a newspaper, the auction can take place.

Auctions are in person or online. To find auction listings near you, check the classifieds in your community or city newspaper, contact local storage facilities such as Extra Space Storage or Public Storage, or search online for following websites:

2. Register for the auction

Self-storage unit auctions are open to the public. To bid, in person or online, you generally must be at least 18 years old and have a valid photo ID. Contact the facility or storage site to find out how to register before the auction. With most online auctions, you can register through their websites by creating a profile.

3. Bid on a unit

Once you have found an auction you are interested in, you can prepare to bid on a unit. Keep in mind that you cannot bid on individual items. You can only bid on whole unit contents. Exactly how the auction works depends on whether it’s in person or online, but either way the unit goes to the highest bidder.

Live Auctions

If you are attending a live auction you will want to dress comfortably and be prepared to spend several hours walking around the facility and inspecting the units. You will not be allowed to enter the units, but you will be able to visually inspect them from the outside. It’s a good idea to bring a flashlight to watch the units.

Bidding is fast, so it’s a good idea to set a budget and stick to it. Start small when first starting out until you gain experience with reselling units.

You often have to pay cash at live auctions, so make sure you have bills on hand and not just a credit card.

Online auctions

Online storage auctions are a little different. If you are bidding on an online auction, you will want to do your research beforehand by reading the unit descriptions and looking at all available photos.

If larger items are visible in the photos, such as furniture or electronics, see if you can research the brands of those items to find out what they typically sell for the occasion. Unfortunately, the list can also be vague, listing only “bins”, which doesn’t give you much to go on.

With online auctions, you can pay with credit or debit cards, or you may need to arrange to pay cash in person. Some online auctions charge additional fees. For example, charges a 15% fee (10% for Pro members). You may also be required to pay a refundable cleaning deposit.

Screenshot of an online storage unit auction

4. Clean the device

You had the highest bid on a unit and you won, congratulations! Now comes the real work. After winning an auction, you have a limited time to clean the unit and remove its contents. Depending on the storage facility, the typical time is 24-72 hours, so you may need help moving large or heavy items and a large SUV or truck.

When you start emptying the unit, be sure to wear gloves and a mask to protect yourself from dust or debris. If you encounter hazardous materials, such as cleaning chemicals, poisons, or flammable liquids, handle them with care and contact the proper authorities to find out how to dispose of them.


You may need to return personal items such as photos or legal documents to the property manager. You may also be required to surrender firearms to law enforcement.

5. Sell your finds

If you wonder how to make money on storage auctions, it all depends on your ability to resell your finds.

Once you’ve cleaned the unit, browse through the items and see if any of them have resale market value. Depending on the items, you can use the following sites to sell your unit’s content:

  • Gazelle: If you find used electronics, cell phones or computers, you can resell them on Gazelle.

  • Craigslist: craigslist is a good place to sell big items, like furniture.

  • Facebook Marketplace: Like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace can be a useful tool for selling furniture and electronics.

  • Posh mark: If the unit contains clothing, shoes, jewelry or handbags, you can sell these items on posh mark.

  • eBay: For other items, such as toys or collectibles, eBay can be a great way to reach buyers nationwide.

If there are items in the unit that you are unsure of the value of, consider consulting an expert. The value of some items, such as coins or baseball cards, can range from pennies to thousands of dollars. Getting expert advice can therefore be invaluable.


How do I find local storage unit auctions?

You can find local storage auctions online at StorageTreasures and StorageAuctions. Or, you can find local in-person auctions by checking your area’s newspaper classifieds or visiting local storage facility websites.

What is the average profit margin on a storage auction?

Average profit margins on storage unit auctions are difficult to calculate. For every unit that produces high profits, another could be a total loss. That’s why it makes sense to start small and bid low until you’re more experienced and efficient at spotting a good deal.

What are the risks of bidding on storage auctions?

With a storage auction, you have little information before you bid. A unit that looks promising might have no value, and you might incur costs to haul the waste – in addition to the money you bid – causing you to lose money.

At the end of the line

For people who love the thrill of the hunt and are willing to take a risk, storage unit auctions can be a great way to earn some extra cash. Before diving in, research the process and understand the risks. This way, you’ll be in a better position to spot a good deal and make some money. When you’re ready to get started, check out local auctions or bid online.

If you are looking for other ways to earn money, check out the best side hustles of 2022.

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This article How to make money with storage auctions originally appeared on FinanceBuzz.

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